Judge Jennifer Togliatti – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada

Jennifer Togliatti, who retired as a state court judge last year, is President Trump’s first nominee to the U.S. District Court in Nevada.

Background

Jennifer Paige Togliatti was born in 1967 in Waterbury, CT.  Togliatti graduated from the University of Nevada in 1989 and from California Western School of Law in 1993.[1]

After graduation, Togliatti joined the Clark County District Attorney’s Office as a criminal prosecutor.[2]  In 1999, she became a Justice of the Peace in Las Vegas Township.  In 2002, Gov. Kenny Guinn chose Togliatti to be a District Court with Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District.[3]  Togliatti stayed at that position until 2019 when she retired to become a private mediator.

History of the Seat

Togliatti has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.  This seat opened on June 29, 2018, when Judge James Mahan moved to senior status.  

In April 2019, Togliatti was approached about the judgeship by U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto.[4]  Togliatti was then recommended, alongside other candidates by Cortez-Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen.[5]  Togliatti interviewed with the White House Counsel’s Office in July 2019.[6]  President Trump announced Togliatti’s nomination on October 16, 2019.

Legal Career

While Togliatti has spent most of her legal career as a judge, she did have five years of experience as a state prosecutor before she joined the bench.  Her experience in this role was purely criminal and included prosecuting both misdemeanor and felony cases in Nevada state courts.

In addition, since 2019, Togliatti has been working as a mediator in private practice.  In this role, Togliatti notably was tasked with determining the damage disbursements to plaintiffs injured from the 2017 mass shooting in the Las Vegas strip.[7]

Jurisprudence

Togliatti served as a trial court judge in Nevada between 2002 and 2019, in which role, she presided over approximately 8500 cases.[8]  Two of her most notable cases are outlined below.

Death Penalty

Most notably, Togliatti reviewed the execution protocol for Scott Dozier, the first inmate scheduled to be executed in 11 years in Nevada.[9]  In an unusual posture, federal defenders challenged the execution protocol as cruel and painful, while Dozier pushed for the execution to be carried out.[10]  After multiple hearings, Togliatti blocked the use of Nevada’s three drug protocol, citing concerns about the use of cisatracurium, a paralytic drug included in the cocktail.[11]  However, Togliatti’s decision was overruled by the Nevada Supreme Court.[12]  In a sad epilogue, Dozier died by his own hand before his execution.[13]

Discrimination in Prosecutions

In 2000, as a Justice of the Peace, Togliatti reviewed a challenge to Clark County policies criminalizing prostitution and solicitation, which were alleged to discriminate against women by allowing male offenders to complete classes for dismissal but not allowing the same option for women.[14]  Togliatti rejected the challenge, finding that the policy did not discriminate based on gender, but rather differentiated between “buyers” and “sellers” in the prostitution industry.[15]  Togliatti’s ruling was ultimately upheld by the Nevada Supreme Court.[16]  However, the Court also criticized Togliatti for involving other judges in a “collective” decision to authorize continued prosecution, finding the process “flawed.”[17]

Overall Assessment

With twenty years of judicial experience, Togliatti would  not have a learning curve to develop a judicial persona.  Additionally, nominated with the support of the Administration and Nevada’s Democratic senators, Togliatti would likely secure a bipartisan majority for confirmation.  However, Togliatti may draw attention from her decisions in the Dozier case and the prostitution challenge, both of which were criticized by the Nevada Supreme Court.  As such, Togliatti may see some negative votes from those cases.


[1] See Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Jennifer Togliatti: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 40.

[5] Nigel Jaquiss, Oregon Senators on a Collision Course with White House Over Openings on Federal Courts, Willamette Week, Feb. 12, 2018, https://www.wweek.com/news/2018/02/12/oregons-senators-on-a-collision-course-with-white-house-over-openings-on-federal-courts/.

[6] See Togliatti, supra n. 1 at 26.

[7] Marco Della Cava, Victims to Split $800M: What’s Their Pain Worth?, USA Today, Feb. 11, 2020.

[8] See Togliatti, supra n. 1 at 11.

[9] Ken Ritter, Death Row Inmate Says No Concerns About Painful Execution, A.P. State & Local, Aug. 17, 2017.

[10] See id.

[11] Danielle Haynes, Nevada Delays Execution of Murderer Who Opposes Method, UPI, Nov. 9, 2017.

[12] See Ken Ritter, Nevada Court OKs Execution, Rejects Challenges on Procedure.  See also Nevada Dep’t of Corr. v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Ct. of the State of Nevada, 417 P.3d 1117 (Nev. 2018).

[13] Daniel Uria, Nevada Death Row Inmate Scott Dozier Found Dead From Apparent Suicide, UPI, Jan. 6, 2019.

[14] A.P., County Prosecutorial Bias Alleged in Solicitation Cases, A.P. State & Local Wire, Oct. 5, 2000.

[15] See A.P., Las Vegas Judges OK Trials for Prostitutes While Johns Get Diversion, A.P. State & Local Wire, Dec. 28, 2000.

[16] See Salaiscooper v. Eighth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada, 34 P.3d 509 (Nev. 2001).

[17] Brendan Riley, Nevada Supreme Court OKs Vegas Prostitution Prosecutions, A.P. State & Local Wire, Nov. 15, 2001.

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